By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
At the close of the 2009 season, the Brookfield Warriors were 1-9 and ranked 27th in the Division V, Region 17 computer rankings.
What a difference four years make.
The Warriors current crop of seniors, freshmen in 2009, have led Brookfield to an unblemished 10-0 record in 2012 and sit atop the Division IV, Region 13 rankings.
It will be a night of firsts come Friday at 7:30 p.m (WFUN) as the Warriors will host their first home game, though at Girard High School, a showdown against the Edgewood Warriors, who will be playing in their first playoff game in school history.
Brookfield manhandled Edgewood during the regular season, 49-13, but Brookfield coach Randy Clark isn’t going to be taking the opposing Warriors lightly.
“We’re not judging anything by what happened before,” he said. “Football is hard because you rarely play the same team twice, but we’re preaching to our kids just stay positive, take care of business. They haven’t lost since we played them, so they’ve obviously gotten better. They have great talent and are well-coached.
“We’re excited to be where we are at and hopefully we’ll play to our potential.”
This season has been the culmination of the progress Clark has made with this group of seniors over the past four seasons.
“The big thing with this senior group, eight of them started for me as freshman,” he said. “I’ve got seven to eight kids that are four-year lettermen. (Jeremy) Quinlan has been a varsity quarterback for 3 1/2 years. He started there for the second half of his freshman year. They took their lumps early on, but the main thing about this class is, yeah, they’ve got some good athletes, but they’re competitors. They compete in everything they do. They’re not always 100 percent serious all the time, they can be a relaxed group and it feels like nothing bothers or phases them.
“But when it’s game time, they’re ready for business. Their strongest point is they’re very competitive.”
While the youthful 2009 Brookfield Warriors struggled to put points on the board and keep opponents off it, the 2012 version has had no such issues.
Brookfield has a plethora of weapons offensively, starting with running back Ryan Mosora and quarterback Jeremy Quinlan.
“We have very good balance, there’s been games Mosora, who’s our leading rusher, gets 10 carries,” Clark said. “We hand the ball to my son, Joe (Clark) eight to nine times. We get the ball to our receivers. We’ve got a lot of weapons, Quinlan’s rushed and thrown for almost 1,000 yards so we’re not limited to just rushing or passing.”
While many get lost in the offensive numbers for Brookfield, its defense has been equally outstanding, limiting opponents to just 11.8 points per game.
“Our defense runs to the ball really well,” Clark said. “We do a ton of pursuit drills in practice and our kids do a great job of getting to the ball and we make sure we get the carrier to the ground. Jeremy’s twin brother, Jimmy Quinlan, has been our leading tackler the last three years.”
If one was to find a flaw with Brookfield, it would be its penalties.
The Warriors have drawn flags at an alarming rate this season, averaging 10.3 penalties per game for 81.8 yards.
The flags are something Clark said he and his staff are working hard to correct.
“It’s definitely a concern, believe it or not, we’ve been paying attention to that the last four weeks,” he said. “We’ve added extra running, different punishments for penalties; I don’t know the answer. We had 104 yards in penalties against LaBrae last week. We’ve done everything we possibly can do to try to cut them down.
“I think a lot of them are from their competitiveness and over aggressive attitude, so they’re not all bad, but we gotta get away from them. We know starting this week, playing for what we’re playing for, you’re not going to be able to get away with that.”
Conversely, Edgewood is averaging 6.2 penalties per game for 56.8 yards per game.
While Edgewood is new to the playoff experience, Brookfield got a taste of it last season, falling in the first round to eventual Division IV state champion Norwayne, 42-7.
Clark, who was a freshman on Brookfield’s 1978 Class AA state championship team, said he believes his team is heading into this year’s playoffs with a different mindset than last year.
“I know that we are approaching a little different this year,” he said. “The coaches brought this up, we’re just going into this as normal business, like it’s another week. Only difference is this week if you lose, you’re out.”
Clark added that just because his team defeated Edgewood in the regular season, doesn’t mean they can expect to win again.
“I tell them every week, ‘It doesn’t matter who you play, you’re dealing with 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids, you don’t know which ones are going to show up,” he said. “Nobody is going to lay down and give you the victory. We need to strap it on and play. This week, I think they’re mentally ready and know what’s at stake.
“They’re excited, the community is excited, but I’m trying to keep them out of the community as much as possible. They know they’re in for a war and they know Edgewood won’t lay down for them.”
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